“How will God provide for me when I enter into pioneer work? How will I gain access to new communities?”
Both these important questions are answered in the passage we will study. We will discover that the person of peace is God’s provision and point of access for new work.
"Don't take any money with you, nor a traveller's bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don't stop to greet anyone on the road. Whenever you enter someone's home, first say, "May God's peace be on this house.' If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. Don't move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don't hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay." Luke 10:4-7(NLT)
This passage deals with a part of Jesus' instructions to those He sends out. There are other passages that echo similar instructions (Luke 9:1-6; Matthew 10:9-12), but for our purposes we will focus on the instructions as they were given in Luke 10 as our base text.
We will be considering the "person of peace" or in some translations "those who are peaceful" (in the account Matthew gives, we find the phrase "a worthy person"). The phrase is unique in scripture and can be difficult to understand. But as we will see, although Jesus used a unique phrase here, the concept of working with people of peace is central to the way Jesus and his disciples did ministry. It should also be central to the way we engage ministry in the 21st Century. The dynamics of working with people have not changed. Jesus provides priceless sociological insight in this passage that helps us understand how the Kingdom is expanded and how new ministry in new regions is established. I can certainly attest to this in my own life of ministry. After I learned the principles contained in this passage, I looked back over 25 years of ministry and discovered that every time I had been successful these principles had been applied. Surely it would have helped me tremendously to have known the principles 25 years earlier. I would have avoided a lot of mistakes and their resulting pain!
Our passage provides a clear progression of thought that seems to deal primarily with how the workers will receive provision on their journeys. The four verses contain a number of instructions but also seem to form one integrated instruction. It begins in verse 4 with an instruction not to take provisions for the journey and finds completion in verse 7 where Jesus commands them to accept hospitality because "the worker deserves his wages."
This idea of provision for the travelling preacher, prophet or worker is seen throughout scripture and is essential to understanding this passage. Jesus is dealing with the issue of their provision – their physical resources. He is, in essence, saying: "Don't take extra provisions for the journey. Search for a person of peace and stay with that person. The person of peace is God's provision for your needs. Accept hospitality and the provision that comes from that person. This forms the basis for continued ministry in that town (verses 8, 9). The person of peace, in turn, receives a blessing of peace that given by the worker.
If this is true, then we will see this pattern of ministry in scripture. A few examples will serve our purpose here:
Elijah and the widow at Zarepath (1 Kings 17:7-16): A widow provides for Elijah and as a result she and her family experience God's peace (provision and healing).
The woman at the well (John 4): Jesus asks a woman at a well for a drink of water. This leads to a conversation that opens the entire town to him. Asking a woman to meet his simple need for a drink, reveals the "person of peace".
Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10): Hosting Jesus in his home leads Zacchaeus to encounter peace (salvation).
Lydia (Acts 16:13-15): Paul and his companions are hosted by Lydia in Philippi and this forms a base for ministry in that town.
Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-40): The jailer cares for Paul and Silas and feeds them. As a result, he and his family come to peace (faith in Christ).
Note that in each of these instances the "person of peace" provided for the needs of the worker. A further search of scripture will reveal that time and again God provided for the worker through "people of peace." This flow of provision from the person of peace to the worker seems to be a very important part of identifying the person of peace. Said as clearly as possible: a person who responds to the presence of a worker with physical provisions is potentially a person of peace. This person has opened a doorway into that "town" and is worthy of the "peace" offered by the worker. Later, we will look at what it means for the worker to let his peace rest on a home.
Ministry in the town
The next two verses, which are not our focus for this discussion, progress to ministry in the town. It seems clear that the workers were to extend their ministry of declaring the coming of the Kingdom and healing the sick to the whole town. In urbanised or western culture, this "town" may not be geographical, but rather an extended relational network. The person of peace, therefore, was not only a provider of food and accommodation, but also helped establish a base of ministry to the entire town. The extent of his or her involvement in this ministry is unclear from our passage. However, the act of hosting the visiting worker and providing for physical needs while in the town has in itself already established a base of ministry.
What does this mean for me?
Provisions and resources for ministry are still a relevant issue today. Many workers struggle to find the resources for doing ministry. This is especially true in pioneer ministry that continually moves into new areas. All movements have a strong pioneering edge.
We often look for resources to take with us. We justify this by saying we do not want to be a "burden" to those receiving our ministry. Yet, this is in directly opposite to the way Jesus instructed his disciples to conduct ministry. It is worth noting that we often look for resources before we go, but Jesus told his disciples to look for the resources when they arrived! The resource they were to search for was a person – not a meal, lodging or money. There was no mystery about how God would provide for them. The person of peace was to provide for the needs of ministry whilst the worker was in town.
This person – the "man or woman of peace" – seems to be the key to God's provision. He is also the key to establishing access for ministry into the entire town. Too often, we tend to ignore these principles and either lack in resources or in access. Sometimes in a culture that does not practice the hospitality of Biblical times, we fail to see that people of peace respond to our needs in other culturally appropriate ways.
In urbanised or western culture they often do not respond with hospitality, but with a gift of provision. They may not host us in their home, but they may make a deposit into our bank account instead! In a western or urban culture, this generous gift towards the worker may be as valid in identifying the person of peace as hospitality was in the first century. I know that in my own life of ministry, I have often had people provide resources for me but failed to see them as people of peace. I failed to follow the instructions of pronouncing peace and letting my peace rest on them and their homes.
Of course, people of peace may also reveal themselves by being hospitable even in modern cultures. There are certainly enclaves of urban society where hospitality is practiced. Sometimes this may be a home-cooked meal and bed or paying for a meal at a restaurant. However this happens, the person of peace is revealed by offering to respond to the physical needs of the worker. When we go on mission fully equipped with all the resources we need, we often fail to identify the person of peace. We do this at the detriment of opening access to the entire town.